2024 Women of Live: Yvonne Donnelly Smith

Director of Music Lighting | PRG

Yvonne Donnelly Smith was hired at lighting and production giant PRG 28 years ago as a receptionist.

“Back then behind the reception desk was — almost — the only place you might see a woman in the industry,” she says.

Things are different now, she tells Pollstar, with women everywhere from the warehouse to the corner office, though she says it can always get better.

“I’d be disappointed if, in five to 10 years’ time, there isn’t significant improvement in representation at top tables,” she says.

In her role, Smith shines a light, leading a team that provides services to an enviable roster of past and current artists: Beyoncé, Bon Jovi, David Bowie, Foo Fighters, Prince, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Nickelback, Nicki Minaj, Panic! At the Disco, Post Malone, The Who and more. They’ve helped put on some of the biggest events of the last quarter century — festivals including British Summer Time and one-off events like the tribute show for Foos’ drummer Taylor Hawkins’ at Wembley Stadium in 2022 (“I love Dave Grohl!” she says). 

MDLBEAST’s Soundstorm — a massive dance music festival in Saudi Arabia — means a lot to her. The festival came out from behind closed doors in 2016 and five years later tapped PRG for lighting, video and rigging. The most recent iteration in December 2023 featured 150 acts over three days with 450,000 in attendance. The stage itself was so big, she says, it took her two minutes to cross it. The video screen is the tallest ever built. And all of that is great, but it’s what it means that makes it special for her.

“Just a few years ago, audiences were segregated into male and female areas; there was no dancing, and there were guards between the two areas,” she says. “Now, everyone enjoys the show together, singing and dancing. There are also women production staff, tour managers and business managers. And, on the stage – there were women DJs, doing what they do, on one of the most fantastic stages ever built, in front of the tallest screen ever built for a festival, in front of a wildly enthusiastic crowd. Contributing in my small way to cultural change, especially changes that improve the lives of women, is quite special for me.”